Ontological Claustrophobia – A Short Story

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So there I was, sitting amongst philosophers, and we were all talking about ontological claustrophobia, the fear of being, that kind of thing.

The room was getting stuffy. We’d been there a long time, talking and talking and talking. Suddenly I felt out of breath. ‘How about opening the window,’ I suggested. ‘That will help, I’m sure. Then perhaps we can talk about something else.’

The philosophers grumbled. ‘You don’t understand,’ they said. ‘You never understand.’

‘Look,’ I told them, ‘I’m sure you’ll feel better when the windows are open.’

‘You are shallow,’ one of them said. ‘Our claustrophobia is ontological. It’s not the kind of claustrophobia that can be cured by opening a window.’

‘Besides,’ said another, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m a monad. I have neither doors nor windows.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Still, some fresh air would be nice.’ I started to walk over to the window.

‘No!’, the philosophers shrieked. ‘No! No! No!’

‘Oh, okay,’ I said. ‘If you like, I’ll leave it closed.’

I looked through the glass. Outside, it was a bright, sunny day. I heard a clock, far off, striking noon. ‘I’m going for lunch,’ I said. ‘Anyone coming?’

The philosophers looked appalled. ‘Lunch? You can think about lunch at a time like this? When the world is consumed by misery and suffering? When we have not yet atoned for the crimes of our ancestors? When God is dead, and we are soon to join him in the grave? All of this… and all you can think about is lunch?’

I picked up my bag and left the room. I waved goodbye, but the philosophers had already returned to their deliberations.

Out in the street, people were wandering here and there, going to and from the market. I bought myself a loaf of bread and some cheese. Then I walked up the hill on the outskirts of the town.

On the top of the hill, surrounded by the buzz of insect-life, I found a rock where I could sit to eat my lunch. The bread was fresh and the cheese pungent. I brushed the crumbs away and watched as the ants carried them off to their nests.

Then I lay down on the grass, and for a long time I gazed up at the vast blueness of the summer sky.

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